Planting Trees for Our Future

By Lorraine Spooner


“He who plants a tree, plants a hope”

Over recent weeks, COP 26 has been at the forefront of our daily news, with representation from nearly 200 countries from all corners of the globe highlighting the damaging effects of climate change on our planet. The outcome of this meeting has been the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ agreement to accelerate action on climate change this decade.

We may consider our role as miniscule in the bigger, world-wide picture and this assumption may be correct in our understanding that we, as individuals, cannot do much to correct the rising imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

However, we can change this mind-set to one of ownership of the problem, so that we leave our planet a better place for future generations to enjoy a healthy, sustainable and happy life, surrounded by the beautiful trees that we have planted as our legacy.

Planting Trees for Our Future

I personally love this quotation, which signifies how important the future is, rather than the present: –

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Nicholsons sell over 300,000 trees per year, so we know that you, our customers, are planting these in your gardens, woodlands, on your farms and in areas of new afforestation, but we need to maintain this momentum and celebrate National Tree Week together.

The many benefits of trees cannot be underestimated, they

  • absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, reducing the greenhouse effect
  • trap dust, pollen and other pollutants, improving air quality
  • offset harmful by-products of fossil-fuel burning by storing carbon
  • reduce the amount of rainwater run-off, which in turn diminishes the incidence of flooding
  • reduce erosion and pollution in our waterways
  • reduce wind speeds and cool the air, as they lose moisture and reflect heat upwards from their leaves
  • provide food, protection and homes for birds and mammals, upon which many species depend
  • provide shade and regulate extremes of temperature
  • reduce stress and improve our health and wellbeing
  • provide places of spiritual, cultural and recreational importance
  • provide firewood for cooking and heat, and materials for building
  • can increase property value whilst bringing joy to our gardens
  • foster vibrant eco-systems and, importantly,
  • they play an indispensable role in creating a better outlook for our planet.

We, at Nicholsons, will continue to contribute to the Government’s tree planting target through our Forest Canopy Foundation project, details of which you can read about here

Planting Trees for Our Future

We have also made our own personal pledge to plant one million trees in the next 10 years at one of our ‘Community Action’ projects in Africa, where we will be helping local people become more self-sufficient on the land, less reliant on essential travel to feed their families, and raising awareness of the wider world around them. Read all about our overseas community projects where we are making a difference to the lives of others:

Planting Trees for Our Future
Planting Trees for Our Future

Every tree that we plant will make a small contribution to capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so in this two-part article, I am going to focus on our current stock of larger specimen trees, with suggestions for their use, which will make an even greater contribution – the more mature the tree is, the greater the benefit it can provide.

Please contact the Plant Sales Office on 01869 340342, Option 1, for more information on the various sizes available, or even better, arrange a visit with one of our experts by emailing

My tree choices for this week are:

Planting Trees for Our Future

Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’

The Chinese Red Birch.  I have featured this tree as an alternative to the ever-popular Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’ as it deserves to be more widely appreciated.  A medium sized birch of pyramidal form, the deep orange bark peels to reveal myriad shades of pale pink to white.  The yellow-brown catkins appear in spring when the dark green foliage unfurls; the leaves are larger than found on other Betula forms but turn the typical buttery yellow in autumn.  A useful garden specimen tree as a focal point, for planting against a darker backdrop where its features can be best admired.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Prunus avium

Our native wild cherry is the parent of most fruiting sweet cherries and will be familiar throughout Britain’s hedgerows with its nodding clusters of white flowers in late spring, followed in some years by small, shiny red fruit.  The species name refers to our feathered friends playing an important role in the tree’s propagation by widely dispersing the cherry seeds.  The chestnut-coloured bark becomes silvery with age and the leaves turn a rich orange-red in autumn.  Growing to more than 12 metres in full maturity, this tree would make a substantial contribution to wildlife if planted as part of a new or established woodland.  Prunus avium ‘Plena’ is the spectacular double flowered form, whose growth habit is similar though slightly smaller in maturity.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Liquidambar styraciflua

The Sweet Gum is renowned for its magnificent autumn display, when shades of crimson, purple and orange bedeck the maple-like foliage over a long period, before falling to create a tapestry of colour on the ground below.  The flowers and fruit are termed as ‘insignificant’ in botanical terms, which implies they do not have much to offer, but in my mind, they still contribute to the overall picture.  Imagine this tree on the horizon of a field or paddock, sited to allow the rising or setting sun to enhance that amazing foliage.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Platanus x hispanicus

The London plane is a large, noble tree, being one of the most planted in city streets all over Europe, where it provides valuable shade from increasing urban temperatures and is renowned for absorbing small carbon particles of pollution.  Instantly recognisable by its multi-coloured bark which develops a camouflage-style pattern over time, the palmate, bright green leaves turn a rich orange-yellow before falling in autumn.  After pollination by wind, the female flowers develop into spiky fruits, which hang from long stems, breaking down over winter to release the seeds.  Although, not a native, this majestic tree could be planted in an agricultural setting, where its impressive crown could provide protection for grazing animals for decades to come.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Carpinus betulus

Our native Hornbeam, renowned for its hardiness and longevity, is a popular choice for pleached screens and hedging (being more suited to clay soils than our native beech), but it can also be a superb stand-alone specimen in a large garden or parkland. A mature specimen will have begun to develop its’ distinctive ridged bark, adding to the many attributes of attractive catkins in spring, green winged fruit (samaras) in autumn and partial retention of the coppery autumn/winter foliage making this tree a winter haven for wildlife.

Also available is Carpinus betulus ‘Lucas’, a more upright form of our native hornbeam, forming a neat, oval crown in maturity.  The bright green emerging foliage in spring creates a wonderful contrast against the coppery autumn/winter hues.  This is an elegant choice for avenue or driveway planting or for screening purposes where canopy width could be an issue.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Arbutus unedo

The Strawberry Tree.  A deservedly popular evergreen tree valued for its multi-seasonal appeal; beautiful bell-shaped pendulous clusters of creamy white flowers and red strawberry fruits appear simultaneously in autumn, making an eye-catching display of colour contrast.  With glossy dark green foliage set against red petioles, peeling mahogany bark revealing coppery tones beneath, this versatile tree is an excellent evergreen choice for year-round screening, as it will eventually reach 8-10 metres.

Although the Strawberry Tree is commonly used for ornamental purposes, the red berry fruit yielded by these evergreens is edible and similar to large cherries, except for the rough textured exterior skin.  Once opened, they reveal a soft and grainy intense yellow pulp with a refreshing flavour, both sweet and sour, mostly used for preserves and the traditional fruit brandy from Portugal, Aguardente de Medronhos – a new tipple to try for the festive season perhaps?

Planting Trees for Our Future

Acer rubrum ‘Brandywine’

Maples are renowned for their spectacular autumnal fireworks and ‘Brandywine’ can be relied upon to produce a long-lasting display which some rate as the best of any Red Maple.  The palmate foliage emerges pale yellow, darkening to green over the summer months, before beginning its colourful transition in early autumn.  Reaching a mature height of 7 metres, it prefers a partially shaded site in neutral to slightly acidic moist soil.  The perfect shaped specimen tree for a lawn where the neat, upright shape can be best admired from all viewpoints.

Planting Trees for Our Future

Sorbus ulleungensis ‘Olympic Flame’

Named for its stunning autumn foliage and columnar habit, this Rowan matures to 6 metres with a spread of just 3, making it an excellent screening choice for city gardens when planted as a lone specimen or in multiples. The hanging clusters of creamy-white flowers in late spring mature to large, shiny red berries, providing a striking contrast against the fiery autumn spectacle of vibrant orange and red.  A fantastic choice for bringing a spectrum of colours to your garden and a good alternative to an Acer where canopy width could be an issue.

This tree was reclassified in 2014 from Sorbus commixta ‘Dodong’, after a seedling discovered on the island of Ulleungdo in South Korea was found to produce much larger flowers and fruit than others in the species commixta.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Plant Centre and our Yurt Restaurant, but if you require any further information in the meantime, please contact

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